While there is certainly much to appreciate in “The Secret Shame of the Middle-Class,” Neal Gabler’s recent article in The Atlantic, I still felt that it ultimately acts as an indictment of, rather than a gesture of solidarity with, the middle class.
His conclusion, although not expressed in so many words, is that while he shares our shame at having too much debt, we are right to be ashamed. Essentially, we dug our own graves.
But where is the shame of the banks? Why were they resurrected with trillions in bailouts and quantitative easing when they had dug their own graves back in 2008?
Gabler’s article begins with this disturbing statistic:
“Since 2013, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to ‘monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.’…the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?”
When the banks and their cohorts had more or less the same type of financial emergency—proportionally speaking—in 2008, did anyone associated with the banks come out and speak of the “secret shame” of the banks? No—instead, they acted with a complete lack of shame. They went to Washington and threatened to completely crash the economy unless they got a bailout.
One CEO sued the government (and won) because his share of the bailout wasn’t big enough!
The shamelessness of the banks knows no bounds. So it pisses me off to read that somehow you and I should be ashamed if we get into financial trouble, regardless of the reason. Gabler’s article is good overall, but he points out a number of times that he is far from alone in his debt predicament and so when he blames himself for said predicament, he is by extension blaming his fellow debtors for theirs. Yet he never once blames the banks-somehow the apparently extensive research he did for his article never led him down the path of the role of the banks in the country’s black hole of debt.